Thoughtful ThursdayInstead of continuing to blog about blogging as we’ve done for the past three Thoughtful Thursdays, we will conclude April by returning to Thoughtful Thursday’s bread and butter: regular old infertility. The kind of issue that Fertiles just don’t tend to deal with, or at least not in the same way.

Hold on, not so fast… Quick detour first. It’s on topic, trust me.

When I bought my Volkswagen (as you may recall, the car I bought in 2001 to prepare for the baby that I was sure would be on the way soon), I received a registration card from VW. In addition to the usual name and address questions, it asked a question I’ve never seen anywhere else — a manifestation of the quirky marketing for which VW has strived for decades.

The registration card said something to the effect of:

Did you give your Volkswagen a name?
___ Of course! The name is _______
___ Huh? Why would I name a car?

To me, the very same question can be asked about all of the eggs and embryos (“theoretical children,” as my husband would call them) that get produced during fertility treatments. 

After IVF #2, Delenn asked me that very question about the two embryos that we transferred.

Looking good!! Did you name ’em? We named ours Attia and Servilla (Attia survived- we assume).

Honestly, naming embryos had never occurred to me before. Yes, I gazed at their photos for hours, wished that they would stay, imagined their futures, loved them. But naming embryos who had not implanted (and in that case, never did implant) was just not on my radar. I did name my Volkswagen, though.

Anyway, I have found many people who thought otherwise in the blogosphere. I have seen names for eggs prior to retrieval or IUI (usually naming the whole group rather than each individual, such as The Magnificent Seven). I have seen lots of names for embryos post-fertilization/pre-transfer, and even more names for embryos post-transfer (some names for the group and some individual names). The naming seems to go up further once people see embryos on ultrasound. When the sex of the fetus is known, it seems rare not to have some kind of nickname (or in some cases, the people start using the real name that they will give the baby). Some names are unique to people’s interests; some reflect something about the embryos/fetuses; some are just fun or silly.

Using some concurrent twin pregnancies as examples:

  • Miss Conception calls her twins Chick and Pea.
  • Katedaphne has called her twins Thing 1 and Thing 2 since seeing their first ultrasounds.
  • Shinejil named her twins Bruiser and Runty upon seeing their disparate sizes on ultrasound; one week later, Runty’s heartbeat could no longer be found, but Bruiser continues to do well.
  • Mrs. M@sk had been calling her twins The Flintstones, then revised it to Wilma and Betty once she learned the sexes, but she continues to call them all sorts of variations on the theme such as Bedrock Babies. By the way, Mrs. M@sk has just been put on bedrest for the remainder of her pregnancy, so go send her your good thoughts that the babies stay put for several more weeks.

My husband and I do have nicknames for our fetuses, but between the two of us we have said them out loud less than half a dozen times. Once, only once, when my husband said goodbye as I left for work, he also said goodbye to the babies using their nicknames. One of them is a name that DH for years has joked about giving our child as an actual name — purely a joke, he’s not batshit insane. The other one we came up with as a counterpart to the first name when we learned that I was carrying twins.

I’m not going to tell you the names, but I will give you a huge hint. If anyone happens to get them both before next week’s Thoughtful Thursday, you will get an enormous jackpot bonanza prize. I’m pretty sure no one will guess — wanna prove me wrong? (If you do guess, please don’t forget to also answer the substantive Thoughtful Thursday questions.)

Your hint(s): The names come from The Transformers. The 80s cartoon and toy empire, not necessarily the recent movie. One of the characters after whom one of our twins is named appeared in the 2007 movie, but the other one did not. I am not telling you whether they are Autobots or Decepticons (or one of each).

Back to this week’s Thoughtful Thursday query:
Have you named eggs/embryos at any point in the treatment process? If so, at what point? Were the names picked out before or after you saw their microscope/ultrasound image?

I’m not talking about when you might assign the real name to a fetus — that’s a topic for a different Thoughtful Thursday. Today, let’s talk about the silly nicknames that some of us give and some of us don’t. You can even tell us the names if you’d like.

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Ever since I took up pottery, I’ve had a rule that I’m no longer allowed to make pottery purchases. I still browse in stores and arts festivals, to appreciate others’ work and to give myself ideas, but anything that I’m able (or potentially able) to create is off limits — if I want it, I have to try to make it myself.

That rule did not apply when I went to a shop in Madrid run by a pottery cooperative. I actually went just to look, and I saw lots of cool stuff, but I could not resist one item that I found. Technically it is a ceramic sculpture instead of functional pottery like I usually make, so it doesn’t violate my No Purchase rule. As decent as my pottery skills are in certain ways, it would truly be impossible for me to make one of these.

Remember how I was drawn to Don Quixote, both because of the then-upcoming trip to Spain and because of the quixotic, impossible dream of IUI #7 (the one that worked)?

I just couldn’t say no when I saw this. Yes, it cost a lot of money. Yes, it was extremely inconvenient to transport across the ocean (height = 14 inches tall, but happily it’s not as heavy as you might imagine). Despite the downsides, there was no way I could go home without it — especially since at the time I knew I was pregnant, and that the character of Don Quixote had already taken on additional meaning for me.

Don Quixote

This handsome fellow now sits next to Don Quixote and Rocinante in pen and ink, creating a little Impossible Dream corner of the room. I’ll show you what they look like together soon, but first I have to show you a couple more installments of Infertility Art — or perhaps a more apt name would be Fertility Art?

Join the Show and Tell circle.

Thoughtful ThursdayWelcome ICLW visitors! As promised, a pregnancy-free post.

Last week we talked about whether partners, family, and friends read your blogs. For those who do have loved ones read their blog, they often experience self-censoring, and many wish they’d never told certain people about their blog. Many people keep their blogs secret on purpose, to allow themselves freedom to express themselves.

This week’s topic assumes that someone IRL reads your blog. If that’s not true, you can think about the extent to which this happens outside of blogging.

Do the loved ones who read your blog ever make attempts to edit the content of what you write? For example, has anyone ever read about themselves on your blog and asked you to remove something? Has anyone ever preemptively asked you not to blog about something? Did you comply with the request, or stand your ground?

This has only happened to me once, but it was a doozy. I can’t get into the details because I agreed not to blog about it, but my husband and I had a heated disagreement and he forbid me to blog about it. It’s infertility-relevant because it happened to be on the day of my egg retrieval for IVF #2, which obviously adds a special dimension and extra emotions.

It is the only time he has ever forbid me to do anything. He has since un-forbid me because he doesn’t want to forbid anything — he’s not a forbidding kind of guy.

When I later asked him about it, he said that he didn’t want to come across badly — which he would have. I don’t entirely understand why he cares that people he’ll never meet and who don’t know his name would think negatively about him, but it was obviously important to him.

What about you? Has someone ever stepped up as editor, either before or after a post went up? How did you react?

Note to ICLW visitors: Hi! This post is pregnancy-related. If you would prefer non-pregnancy talk, come back on Thursday.

I have the weirdest problem. I need to gain more weight.

When skinny girls complain about being unable to gain weight, they get little sympathy. Just like when fertiles complain to infertiles about getting pregnant every time their husband looks at them. Or like the time my husband needed a new wallet because his old wallet had been so full of money that it burst. Lest you think we’re rolling in the dough, it’s not what you think. A dozen guys had reimbursed him for prepaying their hotel rooms during a Boys’ Weekend. Even from the guys who had just handed him a large amount of money in small bills, there were a lot of glares when he announced the state of his wallet.

Back to me, and being simultaneously fat and skinny.

I’m not like the skinny girls, I swear. I am not, and have never been anything close to, a skinny girl.

I’m just carrying twins. To increase the likelihood of actually giving birth to two live babies, I need to gain a lot of weight throughout this pregnancy. The estimates vary depending on who you listen to/which books you read, but the twin book that I trust the most says that the best outcomes for multiples in terms of survival and reduced prematurity require a lot of weight gain. Mind-boggling caloric intake and double the protein that I’ve been getting even on days when I try hard to consume protein. For a vegetarian who has lost her taste for most sweets, getting that many calories is pretty much impossible. (See? Cry Me A River territory, right?)

I’ve been eating constantly, and I thought that I was pretty well on track. Most of my pants no longer fit, and my belly is much bigger than usual.

Then I went to the OB. I haven’t been on a scale since before getting pregnant, so I had no idea how much weight I’ve actually gained. I would have guessed at least 10 pounds (which would be perfect given the twin recommendations and my starting BMI).

Nope. I have gained (drum roll)…

…zero pounds.

Huh?

My weight during treatments has fluctuated in a 5-pound range, and today I was smack-dab in the middle of that range. What the hell? I am certainly bigger, so where is that weight going (and why didn’t my weight magically disappear before I was pregnant, when I wouldn’t have minded)?

DH said that he has been secretly monitoring my food intake, and that although I am eating more, I am also eating mostly healthy foods. Too much salad! Even my salad dressing choice is not fatty enough.

I now have to eat almost nonstop, and I need to work in more fattening foods (most of which don’t appeal to me, between the nausea, aversions, and my preexisting eating patterns). Remember when I said that I have the weirdest problem?

I will leave you with two vignettes that demonstrate the yin and yang of my skinny fatness.

We saw a bunch of friends this weekend, including the Other Hosts. I tried to camouflage my belly, and apparently succeeded. We ended up telling the Other Hosts and one other person about the pregnancy, because DH really wanted to be able to tell someone the good news in person and his closest friend made a pretty good candidate, but I drew the line at making an announcement in front of a dozen people, some of whom I barely know. After Mr. Other Host heard the news, he said, “That’s funny, because I was going to ask you if you’d lost weight.”

Backstory for the next vignette: I have a medium-sized body, but I have extra-large breasts. DDD, in fact. They’ve gotten probably half a cup size bigger since being pregnant.

After dinner, one of the people that I don’t know well (I’ve been to her house and she’s been to mine, but we’re not actually friends) asked Mrs. Other Host, “Have BabySmiling’s boobs always been that big?”

Actually, yes, pretty much.

The Verdict
Fetuses: each about an inch long, weighing less than 1/3 of an ounce between the two of them
Breasts: bigger, hard to disguise — but for many people the change is just a drop in the ocean
Stomach: much bigger, but possible to disguise
Rest of body: no bigger
Muscle mass: possibly atrophied
Mass: no change!

I’m thinking of following Dr. Nick Riviera’s Window to Weight Gain advice (from when Homer Simpson wanted to become obese so that he could go on disability). Don’t chew gum, chew bacon. Brush your teeth with milkshakes. Oops, I’m a lactose intolerant vegetarian. Back to the drawing board.

Didn’t I tell you that this is the weirdest problem to have?

I’ve posted a couple of times before about my appreciation for Wall Blank. Inexpensive high-quality limited edition original art? I’m in.

A firm time limit on the purchase? Fun.

Art with infertility themes (as interpreted by me, not the artists)? Jackpot!

I’ve already shown you Dreaming Makes Life Colourful and a line drawing of Don Quixote. The latter honored my then-upcoming trip to Spain and my impossible dream of Perfunctory IUI #7 — you know, the one that got me pregnant with twins. (Not that a drawing itself is enough to get a girl pregnant!)

Soon I’ll show you what these pieces of art, along with my other infertility-related art, actually look like in my house. I look at them every day — I can see them from the couch as I rack up my many hours of lounging — and they make me so happy.

In the meantime, for the next week you have an opportunity to buy some art for yourself (or someone else). Wall Blank is opening their vault and giving access to all of the past artwork. There are hopeful pieces; artsy pieces; whimsical pieces; serious pieces; all in every possible medium. They’re not paying me; I just like the concept, the company, and the products.

Go ahead. Treat yourself to some beauty. I don’t even mind if you copy me.

Thoughtful ThursdayLet’s follow the last week’s train of though about letting your (theoretical or real) child read your blog someday.

I’ve seen today’s topic addressed a couple of times in the ALI blogosphere, but I haven’t seen as much about why people make the choices they do.

Does your partner read your blog? Family? Friends? Why or why not? If they do read it, do you consider that as you write?

My husband reads my blog. He reads every post, and often gives me feedback verbally or via email. He also reads all of the comments, and remarks on things that he finds interesting. He’s a delightful audience, actually.

Sometimes he learns things from the blog instead of directly from me — I figure that if he’s going to read the post anyway, there’s no point in telling him twice. Plus, part of the point of blogging is that it takes some of the burden of supporting me through infertility off of him (and onto the rest of you!).

I don’t write anything I wouldn’t want him to read, but I think that would be the case even if he didn’t read the blog. There have been a couple of times that I would have blogged about something because I didn’t realize he would object, until he specifically asked me not to. We’ll talk about that issue at a future Thoughtful Thursday, but not just yet — he and I are still working through that.

Everyone else? Never have, never will. No one else even knows I write a personal blog. And I like it that way. There are friends that I wouldn’t object to reading, but it’s kind of a slippery slope. It’s easier to keep the secret if it’s a true secret.

What about you?

9w0d: Dayenu

April 14, 2009

We’re in the midst of Passover. Well, more accurately, I guess you could say everyone else is in the midst of Passover. After being extremely observant of the holiday over the past 11 years of marriage (cooking up a storm for seders that we’ve hosted every year, keeping separate plates and silver just for Passover, refraining from all chametz — grains — and even many years without kitniyot — pseudo-grains like beans and peanuts, which turns out to be extremely difficult for a vegetarian), we made the decision to skip Passover this year. I had to work on the evening of the first seder; DH is out of town half of the week; I can’t stand up long enough to cook a single dish, much less 8 or 10; the Passover diet leads to notorious constipation, which would be one more symptom on top of the others already rendering me useless for most of each day; I am struggling to maintain my recommended nutritional intake even with the full complement of grain options. In so many ways, observing Passover this year just didn’t make sense.

In many ways, it’s not a big loss. I’ve acquired a taste for certain Passover foods (in particular, I make a fine charoset), but few are good enough for me to make them outside of Passover. I do miss my special Passover plates, but I don’t miss the trouble involved in switching out all of the regular dishes for the special ones. (Plus, this year for the first time, I have enough pottery made to be eating off of my own dishes instead of store-bought dishes the rest of the year.) I do miss the seder, but we didn’t have anyone indispensable lined up for this year’s guest list anyway.

One thing I definitely miss is Dayenu. It’s a traditional poem/song that’s part of the standard seder, but some families pay it more attention than others. One of our guests years ago, a dear Christian friend full of spirituality and grace (and one of the three IRL friends I’ve told about this pregnancy so far), was really taken with the idea. For weeks after our seder, she’d keep bringing it up to me, saying how much it resonated with her. Now many years later, she still brings it up almost every year around Passover.

“Dayenu” means “it would have been enough.” The song lists many blessings that came to the Israelites, saying that each on its own would have sufficed, but that taken all together, G-d’s blessings are overwhelming and incredible.

Because I didn’t grow up Jewish, I learned the song from my husband who, for all of his amazing qualities, is not very musical. In fact, he can’t really carry a tune. As a result, I learned a completely wrong melody. In case you’d like to hear the real tune (and see someone’s adorable baby dancing)

As my only form of Passover observance this year, I’d like to give you my own version of Dayenu. Infertility is a period of wanting, of emptiness, but it’s good sometimes to remember all that we do have.

  • If I had my health without education or a career, it would have been enough, dayenu.
  • If I had the gifts of education and career but no husband, dayenu.
  • If I had the best husband in the world but no means or will for children, dayenu.
  • If I had the means and will for children but no ability to seek help to create them, dayenu.
  • If I’d had the means to pay for years of infertility treatments but no one to discuss them with, dayenu.
  • If I had an entire blogosphere to talk to but nowhere else to go, dayenu.
  • If I had the ability to travel around the world but no treatments to come home to, dayenu.
  • If my first IVF initially worked but resulted in another miscarriage, suggesting ways to improve future IVF cycles, dayenu.
  • If I’d secured New Job which provided health insurance that paid for my post-miscarriage hysteroscopy, dayenu.
  • If while waiting between the hysteroscopy and the next IVF cycle I started attending an infertility support group but got nothing tangible out of it, dayenu.
  • If through my support group I learned about the Trick Up My Sleeve (which I will explain to you soon, really I will) enabling insurance to pay for future IVF cycles, but I still had to fail one more IUI before IVF would be covered, dayenu.
  • If New Job insurance would pay for that one more perfunctory IUI cycle before getting the Trick Up My Sleeve to pay for IVF, dayenu.
  • If Perfunctory IUI actually worked before getting around to the covered IVF cycle, dayenu.
  • If Perfunctory IUI resulted in not one but two embryos implanting, dayenu.
  • If those two embryos have now graduated to fetuses, dayenu!

Another mini-Dayenu that I keep forgetting to mention:

  • If my sister-in-law with whom I have been in a race to have children trusted my husband’s counsel above all others and listened to his advice to postpone her wedding (which is objectively the correct advice, my ulterior motives aside), dayenu.
  • If, rather than getting lapped by her, there’s now a real possibility that I may have two babies to dress up and bring to her wedding, dayenu!

Even in the face of plenty of bad things, the good things keep coming too. I am well aware that many of the blessings I’ve received are not available to many of my bloggy friends, and I am very grateful for all that I’ve had. As I’ve struggled through various treatments, I’ve been cognizant that there are bloggers who go through many more than 11 treatment cycles before seeing a heartbeat; bloggers waiting years to save up enough money for their first IVF; bloggers for whom treatments will forever be out of reach, et al. Passover is a nice opportunity to think about the ways in which the glass is half-full (or, sometimes, 3/4 full and getting fuller).

The conclusion of each seder is, “Next year in Jerusalem!” Every year when we’ve said that, we’ve really meant it — Israel is always at the top of our list of places to go, but each year for different reasons it never quite happens. We actually had tentative plans to go this summer, probably whether or not IVF #3 worked. My international wanderlust has been quashed by the limitations on safely flying past mid-summer, and so our trip to Israel is postponed yet again. Maybe next year I’ll finally make it to Israel, accompanied by my babies.

Next year in Jerusalem!